Bann suffer setback in All-Ireland promotion hunt

BANBRIDGE suffered the second setback in their All-Ireland League campaign when Dublin side Terenure inflicted a four-try defeat in last Saturday’s game played at a gloomy Lakelands Park.

The sides had gone into the fixture with identical records, having each won six of their seven games played. That suggested that the encounter between the teams would be closely contested and the big crowd which turned out for the game, including a sizeable number of visiting supporters, obviously expected a tight tussle.

But from the outset the greater physicality of the home side allowed them to dominate the exchanges, with their quick ruck ball supply contrasting sharply with Bann’s ponderous re-cycling. With the visitors’ mis-firing lineout providing only intermittent and on occasions poor quality possession, the result was a first half spent largely in the Bann half.

After Terenure out-half Willie Staunton had exchanged early penalties with Bann’s Ian Porter, Bann had to be at their defensive best to keep their line intact. They managed that for all of 36 minutes until finally the pressure told. Staunton’s second penalty had doubled his side’s tally and two minutes later the No 10 put in a testing kick which saw Bann winger Ashley Finlay field man and ball. Terenure loose head Jonny Barreto got possession seven metres out and powered over the line, leaving Staunton to add the conversion.

Three minutes later Bann were penalised on their own “22” and Staunton’s kick set up the lineout five metres out, from which the home pack found it all too easy to drive flanker James O’Neill over for a second try, also converted, to give Terenure a 20-3 interval lead which fairly reflected their territorial domination.

Eight minutes after the break the home side went further ahead, with full-back Ian Hanley finding space down the left flank after a Bann knock-on inside their own “22” had presented the opposition with an attacking midfield scrum.

Staunton’s conversion missed the target but it was probably the only mistake the out-half made all afternoon as he continued to control the game behind his dominant pack.

Bann broke out of defence through a lovely break by out-half Adam Doherty, who linked with Porter on the opposition 10 metre line. But the scrum-half’s pass only found a Terenure player, not surprisingly given the way the muddy underfoot conditions and failing light had made differentiation between the players difficult.

Bann again worked their way into an attacking position but lack of control at a scrum five metres out from the home line allowed Terenure to hack clear.

The strong mauling of the home pack had caused problems for Bann all afternoon so when another 5-metre lineout opportunity presented itself in the 63rd minute, it was no surprise when the Terenure eight repeated their earlier feat, with hooker Robbie Smyth claiming the credit for the touchdown which earned his side their bonus point.

Replacement hooker Peter Cromie made good ground for Bann from the front of a lineout as Bann went in search of the consolation try. As play continued in the home “22” they won a penalty in front of the posts. Michael Cromie’s quick tap set up a ruck and when the ball was moved wide replacement centre James Andrews crashed through the Terenure rearguard for the try, to which Doherty added the extras.

On the basis of this performance Terenure must be firm favourites to claim one of the two promotion places on offer from Division 2A. This weekend Bann host Corinthians, whose 20-3 win over Highfield saw them draw level with Bann in joint third. If Bann are to stay in the promotion mix then only a win in Saturday’s game will do.